J.A. Adande and Israel Gutierrez discuss the storylines to watch heading into All-Star Weekend.
Israel: Not to cross platforms here, J.A., but this past weekend on "Sports Reporters" I spent time lauding Damian Lillard's upcoming attempt at All-Star Weekend history and mentioned that we thankfully haven't spent any time lamenting LeBron James' absence from the dunk contest. Umm, that has changed since Sunday. There are still those -- no one's surprised, I'm sure -- who want LeBron to do more, which means the dunk contest.
But before we go headfirst into the LeBron rabbit hole, let me ask the question this way: What are you most looking forward to this All-Star Weekend, and what has you most irritated? I'll allow the LeBron void in the dunk contest as an answer because, apparently, that discussion will last as long as King James has working legs.
J.A.: At this point I don't care if LeBron ever enters the dunk contest. Why even bother to get your hopes up if you know the answer will be no? It's like sending a Valentine to someone who's turned you down 10 times.
At this point I don't care if LeBron ever enters the dunk contest. Why even bother to get your hopes up if you know the answer will be no? It's like sending a Valentine to someone who's turned you down 10 times." -- J.A. Adande
The dunk contest doesn't need the biggest stars. And it certainly doesn't need this new team format that no one understands. It needs great dunks and creativity. I'll include props in the creativity discussion. I still believe Gerald Green's birthday cake dunk was underrated. And for those who think Blake Griffin's dunk that launched a thousand Kia commercials is overrated, if you were in the building, heard the gospel choir singing and saw Baron Davis pop out of the sunroof, you'd appreciate how grand the moment was. The dunk itself was average. But Griffin deserved a 50 for the showmanship.
As for Lillard, the story gets much more interesting if we ask him to do more than just show up. Can he win every event? (Including capturing the MVP in both the Rising Stars Challenge and All-Star Game?) Let's pump up the weekend with a Michael Phelps-like narrative. Lillard's best odds have to be in the Rising Stars game. He'll have the ball in his hands a lot during a guard-dominated event. If he gets that trophy, the rest of the weekend suddenly gets a lot more interesting.
Israel: That should definitely be his motivation, as it should be for a handful of his Rising Stars teammates (particularly any sophomore teammates who've played in this game already) because it does add to the interest level for the weekend. And following that, he'll have the Skills Challenge, which he's already won once. The challenge there is putting pressure on himself. Normally that event is all about who wants to actually win it. But if Lillard wants to win it too much, he might rush through it and make some costly mistakes. And that, right there, is the most I've ever thought about the Skills Challenge.